Page 82 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 34

Basic HTML Version

72
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
karan:
“The light radiated and projected like horns (
keren
)
The divergent meanings of
keren
and
karan—
known as homo­
nyms: having the same sound and often the same spelling, but
differing in meaning—have their parallel also in English se­
mantics. For example,
fast
“abstain from all food” and
fast
“moving rapidly.” There are also words both in Hebrew and
in English where homonyms actually become antonyms. In Eng­
lish we have
clip
“cut off” and
clip
“hold together,”
tw ist
“wrench out of shape” and
tw ist
“entwine.” In Hebrew the
illustrations are even more striking. In all Semitic languages
words are formed by inserting vowels between the consonants
(as a rule, three) of the roots. Let us examine two roots: ZBL
and KDS. From ZBL we have
ZeBuL
“exalted, honored” and
ZeBeL
“manure.” From KDS we have KoDeS “holy” and
KeDe-
Sah
“a cult prostitute”—the holy and the profane from the same
root (Gen. 38.21).
I t is admittedly a trivial observation, and perhaps even pe­
dantic, but the word “commandments” is erroneous in the
rubric “The Ten Commandments.” Semantically, the Hebrew
aseret ha-devarim
(Ex. 34.28 and Deut. 4.13 and 10.4) means
“the ten words.” The new JPS Bible, which translates the above
phrase as The Ten Commandments, might have added a foot­
note that the literal translation is contained in the word
Deca­
logue—
from the Greek
dekalogos: deka,
“ten” plus“Zogos” word.
THE CULTURE OF LANGUAGE
It is hardly necessary to point out that language is the firm
foundation that undergirds the superstructure of every organ­
ized society. I t is the very soul of a people. Behind every lan­
guage stands a different culture, a different civilization reflecting
its own mental attitudes and the traditions and thought patterns
of the people to which it belongs. As Shlonsky put it, “The cul­
ture of language is not a lexical (dictionary) value, but a na­
tional value.” Therefore the translator must be steeped both in
his own language and in the language of the work he is translat­
ing. Even more, he must successfully cultivate an intuitive iden­
tification with the
purpose
the author had in mind. He must
transmit the thought, essence and style of the original into an
associative linguistic equivalent in his own language. In effect,